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U.S. House Passes Bill Expanding E-3 Visa Program to Ireland

For high-tech companies, Ireland represents a potential source of skilled talent. New legislation is in the works aimed at helping employers recruit from that talent pool.

On 9 March, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 2877) to expand the E-3 nonimmigrant visa program to include Irish nationals. Currently, only Australian nationals are eligible for the program.

Under the E-3 program, a total of 10,500 visas are available each year. If it were made law, H.R. 2877 would not increase that threshold, and the number of visas available for Irish nationals would be contingent on the number of visas left unused by Australians. The U.S. Department of State would determine how many E-3 visas would be available each year by subtracting from the 10,500 the number of visas approved for Australians in the previous fiscal year. The threshold applies only to new visas and not extensions.

Currently the E-3 visa program is available only to Australian professionals who qualify for a specialty occupation. Candidates must be an Australian national, have an offer for employment in a specialty occupation, and have a minimum of a bachelor’s degree or other credential necessary to perform the job.

Three years of experience in a germane position for each year needed to obtain a degree for that occupation is an accepted substitute for a bachelor’s or equivalent degree. While a list of qualified specialty occupations does not exist, the term is defined as a “theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge, and the attainment of a bachelor’s or high degree in the specific specialty (or its equivalent)”.

An E-3 visa is valid for 2 years with unlimited 2-year extensions with a few exceptions. Family members of the primary E-3 visa holder are entitled to the same classification and spouses are eligible for employment but not children.

The House agreed to H.R. 2877 by voice vote. The legislation was introduced by Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA) and a companion bill (S. 3134) was introduced in the Senate by Senators Pat Toomey (R-PA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL) and referred to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary.

 

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How This Impacts Mobility

Due to favorable tax status in Ireland, global companies in tech and other high-skilled fields have established significant operations there. As a result, the local workforce is skilled in these fields and, therefore, attractive to companies looking to add to their U.S. workforce. Expanding the eligibility of the E-3 visa program to Irish nationals will increase the number of U.S. work visas available for hiring from this workforce.

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